My Windows 11 Upgrade: Initial Impressions

January 26, 2022 by Steven Ng

While Windows 11 has been out for a while, they've been slowly phasing in who can update to Windows 11 via Windows Update.

Last night, I was finally offered the chance to update my main desktop to Windows 11 on one of my PCs, and I decided to take the plunge.

The update experience itself is slow even on my fast desktop, so be prepared to simply walk away for a coffee and going back to your desktop every now and then to see if you need to address any prompts.

Post-install, it isn't that much of a change. Most of it is cosmetic, but there are some improvements and of course, new annoyances to contend with.

My experience won't be your experience, so keep that in mind. I've grouped my thoughts below on the good, hit-or-miss, and not-so-good, although within each group, items are listed in no specific order.

Gentle reminder, visit my article on Microsoft Windows Annoyances, and How To Fix Them to find fixes for common issues with Windows, including stuff for Windows 11.

The Good Parts

  • A fairly seamless in-place upgrade from 10 to 11.
  • The audio controls are more granular. It's easier to enable and disable audio devices you don't use, which is a godsend to those who are constantly fixing their audio settings in comms apps.
  • The Windows 10 settings have been cleaned up significantly.
  • Windows Task View (virtual desktops) have improved.
  • The UAC prompt finally appears instantly when installing apps that require user intervention.
  • The default notification sounds are... less annoying.
  • Free upgrade from Windows 10

Hit or Miss

  • Snap layouts are neat, but if you already use PowerToys, you won't be impressed.
  • It's mostly Windows 10 with a bunch of unnecessary cosmetic tweaks
  • There are a lot of wizzy animations. Not a fan of excessive eye candy myself, but ymmv.
  • The file explorer has a new look. If you had previously installed Classic Explorer (I did), it appears that your settings will thankfully be retained— the one that mattered for me was the tree view (I like the Windows 2000 look because it's easier for me to see hierarchy).
  • The taskbar is centered by default, and only icons are shown in the taskbar (no labels).
  • The Start menu has changed once again. I use Windows + first few characters of app name to launch apps anyways, so this had no material impact on my habits.
  • Rounded corners on Windows.
  • You can't easily change your default browser. I can see this being a hated "feature", but Edge has been my browser of choice since they switched to the Chromium engine, so it had no impact on me personally.
  • At some time in the future, you'll be able to run Android apps within Windows. Unfortunately, that time is not now.
  • Other than keeping up with the latest and greatest, there's no real compelling reason to upgrade for the foreseeable future.

The Not So Good Parts

  • For a major version number release, they have left in a lot of UI/visual inconsistencies that go back over ten years.
  • Whether it is available on your system via Updates is determined by Microsoft
  • You will have to reconfigure your system tray area to get it the way it was in Windows 10
  • Configuration is still a hodgepodge of Windows Settings and the Control Panel
  • Windows Explorer has a dumbed down context menu that obscures any shell integrations you have unless you click on a menu option. The easiest way to fix this is to use Winaero Tweaker.
  • The search includes web results (ew). Apparently a recent update to Windows 11 ignores any registry hacks to disable it. Fortunately I had previously disabled it in the Local Policy Editor, and the setting persisted through the upgrade.
  • The right click menu on the taskbar is dumbed down, rendering it useless.
  • The weather icon that was recently added to the Windows 10 taskbar is gone.
  • The Windows Widgets feature is hot garbage. It was one of the first things I removed from the taskbar.
  • Windows Search is still really, really bad for local items when compared to something like Spotlight on the Mac. Considering the fact that Apple doesn't own a major search engine, it just makes Windows Search that much worse.
  • Won't officially run on older but more-than-capable CPUs